US names new Thailand envoy

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2010 (AFP) - President Barack Obama on Thursday named veteran diplomat Kristie Kenney as the US ambassador to Thailand, where political tensions are running high after deadly street protests.

Kenney most recently served as ambassador to the other key US ally in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, where she helped smooth out relations through a series of incidents including rape allegations against a US Marine.

The nomination as ambassador to Thailand requires Senate approval. She would replace Eric John, who is completing three years in his post.

If confirmed, Kenney would have to tread carefully in Thailand's complicated politics. Thailand in May summoned John after a senior US envoy met with "Red Shirt" protesters, who have sought a US mediatory role.

The Red Shirts' two-month protest in central Bangkok descended into several outbreaks of violence that left 90 people dead and nearly 1,900 injured, ending in a bloody army crackdown.

Kenney, who has also served as US ambassador to Ecuador, was known in the Philippines for her public diplomacy including taking to blogs and Facebook to reach out to Filipinos.

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